Bollywood No Longer Worrying About Piracy As Studios Keep Setting New Records At The Box Office
from the look-at-that dept
For years, India was held up as a country that just didn’t respect copyright law at all. We’d heard the stories about how widespread piracy was for all kinds of content. However, as we’d seen elsewhere, the claims that piracy was somehow “killing” the industry didn’t really hold up under scrutiny. In fact, the Indian movie market (Bollywood) continued to grow massively and to thrive, even as piracy was rampant. That certainly seemed to contradict the old claim that infringement kills the incentives for content creation. And now, according to the Economic Times, many Indian studios have more or less stopped even talking about “piracy” because the box office is booming. The secret? It shouldn’t be a surprise, since it’s exactly what people have been talking about for years: making the authorized versions of the content more widely available more quickly in a variety of formats, thereby cutting off one of the main reasons why people seek out infringing copies:
A few years ago, theatre releases were limited to tier-I and tier-II cities due to high costs of prints. It took between three months and a year for a film to be released elsewhere. Consequently, films reached television and home video only after six months of a theatrical release. Pirates gleefully filled that vacuum by bombarding consumers with cheap optical discs….
Not anymore. The brightest stars of the Rs 100-crore constellation are theatres and prints…. Digital prints, which cost one-fifth of analog prints, have facilitated the swift reach of movies across the country.
There’s an infographic that shows most movie releases in 2011 were shown on about double the number of movies screens as similar movies just the year before. That’s a massive increase in availability for theater showings. As for the home market, while it still competes with pirated copies, quality seems to be winning:
According to Dwyer, the better-off who earlier paid to have high-quality cinema systems at home are no longer interested in poor quality (pirated) copies. “The quality of DVDs and Blu-ray discs is excellent with extra features and at a reasonable price.”
While the article still says that there’s a lot of infringement going on, it’s just fading into the background for the most part, especially given the record-setting revenue numbers.
For one, producers are happy with the current box-office fortunes. There is also no evidence to show big hits suffering from online piracy. On the contrary, data crawls suggest that the most downloaded films are nearly always the biggest hits, according to Lawrence Liang of Bangalore’s Alternative Law Forum, one of the authors of the India chapter of the Media Piracy report.
And, thus, the studios have finally realized that paying more attention to improving the authorized market is probably more important than “stomping out piracy.”
What has really changed is the focus on piracy. As the case of AACT shows, the struggles against pirates are few and far between to make even news, leave alone act as a deterrent. “The tendency has been to focus always on the numbers we are capturing rather than looking at leaked markets,” says Uday Singh, managing director, MPDA.
Of course, the article is still full of dire warnings about how the studios need to stay vigilant or everything might fall apart, but that seems based on random hyperbole, rather than any actual evidence.
None of this should be even remotely surprising. For years we’ve been pointing out that if you make works available, make them convenient and reasonably priced, and stop treating your customers like criminals, people will pay. Sure, there will always be some piracy, but those people are unlikely to pay no matter what, for the most part, and you just need to stop worrying about them and focus on giving more fans more reasons to actually pay. It appears that India is an example of a place where that’s actually happening.